For the sake of variety, I thought it might be fun to provide you with a little “painless” history.  Therefore, I have provided below a list of what I consider to be significant historical events that occurred during the month of November.

  1. 11/1/1848 – The first women’s medical school opened in Boston, MA.  It was founded by a Mr. Samuel Gregory and “boasted” twelve students.  In 1874 it became part of the Boston University School of Medicine, becoming one of the first co-ed medical schools.  According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, today, women comprise approximately 1/2 of all medical students.
  2. 11/1/1950 – President Harry S Truman, whom many historians consider to have been one of our greatest presidents, survived an assassination attempt by two members of a Puerto Rican nationalist movement.
  3. 11/2/1962 – President Kennedy announced that all Soviet missiles in Cuba were being dismantled and their installations destroyed, thus signaling the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  On 11/20 he announced that all missile sites had been dismantled. Unbeknownst to the general public, that crisis was probably the closest we ever came to nuclear war.
  4. 11/3/1948 – The Chicago Tribune published its famous, or infamous, headline “Dewey Defeats Truman,” arguably, the most embarrassing headline ever.
  5. 11/4/1862 – Richard Gatling patented his first rapid-firing machine gun, which utilized rotating barrels to load, fire and extract the spent cartridges.  The gun bares his name.
  6. 11/4/1942 – In the battle generally considered to be one of the turning points of WWII (along with Stalingrad) the British defeated the Germans at El Alamein (North Africa).
  7. 11/7/1811 – General (and future president) William Henry Harrison defeated the Shawnee Indians in the Battle of Tippecanoe Creek, which was located in present-day Indiana.  The battle gave rise to the chief slogan of Harrison’s presidential campaign – “Tippecanoe and Tyler too.”
  8. 11/7/1885 – Canada’s first transcontinental railroad was completed, opening up the western part of the country to settlement.
  9. 11/7/1962 –  Former Vice President Richard Nixon, having lost the California gubernatorial election decisively to Edmund Brown, gave his famous farewell speech to reporters, telling them they “wouldn’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen this is my last press conference.”  As we know, Nixon made a comeback in 1968 narrowly defeating Hubert Humphrey for the presidency.
  10. 11/8/1895 – Wilhelm Roentgen discovered electromagnetic ray, aka, X-rays.
  11. 11/8/1942 – The Allies landed successfully in North Africa (Operation Torch).
  12. 11/9&10/1938 – Known as Kristallnacht as all over Germany Nazis terrorized Jews, burning, pillaging and vandalizing synagogues, homes and businesses.
  13. 11/10/1775 – Marine Corps established as part of the Navy.
  14. 11/10/1871 – Explorer Henry Stanley finds Dr. Livingston after a two-year search.  May or may not have actually uttered the attributed phrase “Dr. Livingston, I presume.”
  15. 11/11/1973 – Egypt and Israel sign momentus cease-fire accord sponsored by the US.
  16. 11/13/1927 –  The Holland Tunnel, the first underwater tunnel built in the US, opens connecting NYC and NJ.
  17. 11/13/1956 – The Supreme Court declared racial segregation on public buses to be unconstitutional.
  18. 11/15/1864 – Union soldiers, under the command of General William Sherman, burn Atlanta.
  19. 11/17/1869 – The Suez Canal opened after taking 10+ years to complete.
  20. 11/19/1863 – President Abraham Lincoln delivers the famous Gettysburg Address.
  21. 11/20/1789 – NJ became the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights.
  22. 11/20/1945 – The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials began.  Twenty-four former leaders of Nazi Germany were tried for various war crimes.
  23. 11/22/1963 –  President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald who, in turn, was later assassinated by Jack Ruby.  Hours later, Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as president while on board Air Force One.
  24. 11/28/1520 – Portugese explorer Ferdinand Magellan rounded the southern tip of South America, passing through what is now the Strait of Magellan, crossing from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans.


In addition, the following notables, who made significant contributions to society, were born during November:

Daniel Boone (frontiersman) – 11/2/1734; President James K. Polk (11th President) – 11/2/1795; Will Rogers (humorist) – 11/4/1879; Walter Cronkite (tv anchor/journalist) – 11/4/1916; John Philip Sousa (musical conductor) – 11/6/1854; James Naismith (inventor of basketball)  – 11/6/1861; Marie Curie (chemist who discovered radium) – 11/7/1867; Billy Graham (evangelist) – 11/7/1918; Edmund Halley (astronomer/mathematician who discovered Halley’s Comet) – 11/8/1656; Christiaan Barnard (pioneer of heart transplant operations) – 11/8/1922; Richard Burton (actor) – 11/10/1925; George Patton (WWII General) – 11/11/1885; Auguste Rodin (sculptor of The Thinker, among others) – 11/12/1840; Elizabeth Cady Stanton (suffragist) – 11/12/1815; Grace Kelly (actress/princess) – 11/12/1929; Louis Brandeis (Supreme Court justice) – 11/13/1856; Robert Louis Stevenson (author) 11/13/1850; Robert Fulton (inventor of the steamboat) – 11/14/1765; Claude Monet (pioneered impressionist painting) – 11/14/1840; Jawaharlal Nehru (India’s first Prime Minister) – 11/14/1889; Louis Daguerre (invented daguerreotype process of developing photographs) – 11/18/1789; James A. Garfield (20th President) – 11/19/1831; Indira Gandhi (Indian Prime Minister) – 11/19/1917; Edwin Hubble (astronomer for whom the Hubble Space Telescope is named) – 11/20/1889; Robert Kennedy (JFK’s brother, Attorney General and US Senator from NY) – 11/20/1925; Charles De Gaulle (French WWII hero and president of France) – 11/22/1890; Franklyn Pierce (14th President) – 11/23/1804; William (Billy the Kid) Bonney (notorious outlaw) – 11/23/1859; William Henry Platt (aka Boris Karloff) (famed horror movie star) – 11/23/1887; Zachary Taylor (12th President) – 11/24/1784; Andrew Carnegie (financier and philanthropist) – 11/25/1835; John Harvard (founder of Harvard University in 1636) – 11/26/1607; Anders Celsius (invented Celsius, aka centigrade, temperature scale) – 11/27/1701; Chaim Weizmann (Israeli statesman) – 11/27/1874; Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, (author) – 11/30/1835; Winston Churchill (British Prime Minister during WWII) – 11/30/1874.

Well, there you have it.  I tried to keep it succinct so as not to bore those of you who are ambivalent toward history.  Please let know your opinion.  Absent a groundswell of negative comments, I will likely publish a similar analysis of the eleven remaining months.  LOL.





Today, November 23, most of us will celebrate Thanksgiving. It is a paid federal holiday. All government offices and financial markets are closed. We will gather together with family and friends, eat turkey and other traditional foods, watch football games on TV, and enjoy a day off from work.

All things considered, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the food, the football, and the four-day weekend.  What I don’t like is the traffic.  If you are hosting, you can avoid the traffic, which seems to get worse every year, but you have to buy the food, cook and clean up.  Pick your poison, You can’t have everything.

Few of us will stop to think of the origins and meaning of the holiday. What is its meaning? What are its origins? Why is it celebrated at this time of the year? Read on for the answers.

Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated to give thanks for the year’s harvest. It has strong religious and cultural roots. Most people are aware that Thanksgiving is celebrated in the US (4th Thursday in November) and Canada (2nd Monday in October), but few of us are aware that variations of it are observed in other countries as well. In these other countries the holiday has a different meaning and purpose. For example, in Grenada it is celebrated on October 25, and it marks the date on which the US invaded the island in 1983 in response to the deposition and execution of Grenada’s then Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop. Liberia celebrates the holiday on the first Thursday of November, a tradition that was originated by freed American slaves that were transported there. In the Netherlands a Thanksgiving Day service is held on the morning of the US holiday. Its purpose is to commemorate the traditions of the Pilgrims, who resided in the city of Leiden for several years prior to their emigration to the New World. Japan celebrates a “Labor Thanksgiving Day” on November 23 to commemorate labor and production. It has its roots from the period of American occupation after WWII.

Like many of our traditions, Thanksgiving is rooted in English traditions. These date from the English Reformation in the 16th century and the reign of King Henry VIII. Apparently, the Protestant clergy had determined that events of misfortune or good fortune were attributable to God. Thus, unexpected disasters, such as droughts, floods or plagues, were followed by “Days of Fasting.” On the other hand, fortuitous events, such as a good harvest or the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, which actually was largely attributable to storms off the English coast, were to be celebrated by “giving thanks” to Him.

The origin of the Canadian holiday is uncertain, but it is most commonly attributed to the English explorer Martin Frobisher. He had been exploring Northern Canada seeking the infamous and elusive Northwest Passage to Asia. He wanted to give thanks for his party having survived the numerous storms and icebergs it had encountered on the long journey from England. Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated as a statutory holiday in most jurisdictions of Canada.

Most people trace the American Thanksgiving holiday to 1621 in present-day Massachusetts (although some claim that there were earlier celebrations by the Spaniards in present-day Florida circa 1565 and in the colony of Virginia circa 1610). The Pilgrims and Puritans living there had enjoyed a bountiful harvest that year and wanted to give thanks. Their harvest had been partly attributable to assistance from Native Americans, so they invited them to share in their celebration. Records indicate that there were 90 Native Americans and 25 colonists in attendance. The actual date is uncertain, but it is believed to have been between September 21 and November 11.

Prior to 1942, Thanksgiving was not celebrated as an official national holiday. Rather, it was celebrated periodically by proclamation. For example, during the Revolutionary War the Continental Congress established days of “prayer, humiliation and thanksgiving” each year. In 1777 George Washington proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving to celebrate the colonists’ victory at Saratoga. Following independence, various Presidents continued the practice of issuing proclamations periodically.
In 1863 President Lincoln proclaimed a national “Thanksgiving Day” to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November. Historians believe that his action was prompted by a series of editorials written by Sarah Josepha Hale, a writer and editor of some renown. (She wrote the popular nursery rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”).

The practice of annual Presidential Proclamations continued until 1939. That year, FDR broke the tradition. November had five Thursdays that year instead of the usual four. FDR figured that if the holiday were celebrated on the 4th Thursday it would provide a much-needed boost to the economy by enabling merchants to sell more goods before Christmas. (Even then, Thanksgiving was the unofficial start of the Christmas holiday shopping season.) Typically, this action precipitated a spat between the GOP and Dems in Congress. GOP congressmen viewed it as an insult to President Lincoln and continued to consider the last Thursday to be the holiday, so there were two Thanksgiving celebrations in 1939, 1940 and 1941, a “Democratic” one on the 4th Thursday and a “Republican” one on the last Thursday. The individual states split the dates (only in America!). Finally, in 1941 everyone got in sync. On December 26, 1941 FDR signed a bill into law that decreed that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November, a practice that has continued to this day.

Beginning in 1947, the National Turkey Federation has presented a live turkey to the President. Over the years it became customary for the President to grant a “pardon” to the turkey.


Many businesses are closed on Friday as well, which has had the effect of expanding the holiday into a four-day weekend. Traditionally, this weekend is one of, if not the, busiest travel days of the year, as anyone who has been on the roads or at the airports during this time can attest.  This year the AAA estimates some 51 million Americans will be travelling, primarily by auto, a 3% increase over last year and the most since 2005.   (The AAA defines a “trip” as a journey in excess of 50 miles, so, many trips to grandma’s house are not even included in those estimates.).  According to Robert Sinclair, Jr., manager of media relations for AAA northeast, the above increases are attributable to a “strong economy, robust labor market, rising incomes and higher consumer confidence.”

With respect to air travel, good luck.  Airlines for America estimates some 29 million passengers will be travelling on domestic airlines between November 17 and 28.  The busiest individual day will be Sunday, November 26 with an estimated 3 million.  Add in the enhanced security at the airports, and one can see that a lot of patience and fortitude will be required to survive the weekend.

The Friday after the holiday is known as “Black Friday.” It is one of the busiest shopping days of the year and signals the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Many retail stores open early and offer sales. Some shoppers love this and camp out overnight; others deride it as a “fool’s errand.”

Saturday is known as “Small Business Saturday,” which is an attempt to encourage patronage of small businesses. The Monday after the holiday is known as “Cyber Monday,” which encourages shopping on-line. The Tuesday after is called “Giving Tuesday” to encourage donations to the needy. The holiday is a prime time for charity. Many communities have food and clothing drives to collect items for distribution to the poor.

Many cities hold parades. The NYC “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” is a longstanding tradition. Many families have attended this every year for generations. It features celebrities, high school marching bands, and floats with specific themes, such as Broadway shows and cartoon characters.  The last float is traditionally one of Santa Claus, which symbolizes the beginning of the Christmas season. Other examples of cities that hold parades are Detroit, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Plymouth, MA, and Houston.

Many of us watch football. High schools and colleges play traditional games against their chief rivals. The NFL has staged a football game on Thanksgiving Day every year since 1934. At first, there was only one that was hosted by the Detroit Lions. Currently, there are three. Even basketball has gotten into the act. There are college tournaments and NBA games. For non-sports fans there are a plethora of TV specials with a Thanksgiving or Christmas theme.

So, now that you are “experts” on Thanksgiving, relax and enjoy the holiday.  In particular, take a minute to give thanks that through a fortuitous twist of fate, you were born in this country.


Few people in history are so recognizable that with the mere mention of their initials one instantly knows about whom you are talking.  Such is the case with John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States.  He flashed across our lives like a comet, brilliant but brief.  He was only president for 1,000 days before he was assassinated, yet, even today, people remember him and recognize his name.

Today, November 22, marks the 54th anniversary of his assassination.  Almost anyone over the age of 60 remembers vividly where they were and what they were doing when they first heard of it. For example, I, a freshman in college, was walking to a history class. (Yes, I did attend classes, even on a Friday afternoon.)   I heard some other students talking about the President having been shot. I wasn’t sure I had heard correctly, but unfortunately, I had.

What was strange about the whole incident was the lack of reliable information. It wasn’t like today when news is known and disseminated instantaneously. Communication between New York, where, at the time, all communication was centered, and Dallas was sketchy. Even worse, Dealey Square, the site of the assassination, was not close to the addresses of the network news’ Dallas offices. Reporters on the scene had to communicate by telephone, when they could find one. Often, competing reporters ended up sharing telephones. No iPads; no cell phones. Information was incomplete and contradictory. Eventually, however, we found out the horrible news. No one will ever forget the grim look on Walter Cronkite’s face as he removed his glasses, stared into the camera, and told a shocked, confused and scared nation that the President was dead. When we heard it from “Uncle Walter,” we knew it was true.

The purpose of this blog is not to relate the details of the day’s events, nor do I wish to get bogged down in the various conspiracy theories, some of which persist to this day. Many books have been written on the subject, and I can’t possibly cover these topics in a short blog. Suffice to say, it was a surreal experience. Many emotions swirled through my head – disbelief, denial, fear and uncertainty. Who did it? Why? Was it a single gunman or a conspiracy? Was it part of a larger plot?  Would we go to war?  These and other questions came to mind.

Most everyone was glued to their television sets for days while events played out – Lyndon Johnson sworn in as the 36th President of the US, Jackie standing beside him still in shock and wearing the blood and brain-stained pink suit she had been wearing in the limo (which, she had refused to remove, declaring “I want them to see what they have done”), Oswald arrested, Oswald shot live on national tv while under police escort (How in the world did Jack Ruby get access to that corridor, anyway?), JKF’s funeral procession, the “riderless” horse, John Jr’s salute. The assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy followed soon after. It was the end of innocence.

JFK had won the Presidency by the narrowest of margins over Vice President Richard Nixon. He had received 49.7% of the popular vote to Nixon’s 49.5% and won several states by the slimmest of margins. In that relatively primitive era of communications the end result was not known until the next morning. Many people, including a 15 year-old girl in Berwick, Pa., caught up in the drama, stayed up all night to await the results. JFK was young, handsome, bright, vibrant, dynamic, scion of a famous and wealthy family, and a war hero. He and his beautiful, glamorous wife, Jackie, seemed like American royalty to many Americans. He gave us hope and optimism. In the eyes of his supporters he was the one to transform America. During his inaugural address he uttered the famous line that symbolized the great hope that he would lead us to “A New Frontier,” as his campaign had promised (“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”). Those words still resonate today.

JFK got off to a rocky start with the Bay of Pigs fiasco. But, he seemed to make up for it when he faced down the Russians and Nikita Khrushchev in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Most of us did not realize how close we had come to nuclear war, but in the end Kennedy won that round and showed he was learning on the job. His administration was dubbed “Camelot” after the description of the mythical King Arthur’s court.

Unfortunately, Kennedy made a lot of powerful enemies. Many Republicans thought he had “stolen” the election. Indeed, there had been whispers about voting irregularities, notably in Chicago, but, in the end nothing came of that – no media exposes, no court challenges. Yes, times have certainly changed.

Many conservatives thought he was too soft on communism and too aggressive on civil rights issues. He had made powerful enemies among organized crime and at the FBI and CIA, among others. Fidel Castro hated him for the Bay of Pigs attack.  On the other hand, many Cuban ex-Pats thought he had betrayed them by failing to intervene militarily to support the invasion when it fell apart. All in all, he had a plethora of powerful enemies with the motive, means, opportunity and funds to plan and execute a Presidential assassination and cover-up. In retrospect, one should not have been surprised.


A favorite speculation has been how American and world history would have been different had JFK not been assassinated. Would he have pulled us out of Viet Nam as has been speculated? If so, would there have been an anti-war movement in the 60’s with the attendant protests, turmoil and violence? Would MLK and RFK still have been assassinated? Would the civil rights movement have progressed differently, more peacefully? We will never know. There have been many books written about this topic, including one by Stephen King called “11/22/63” about a fictional time traveler who journeys back to 1963 to try to prevent the assassination, which makes fascinating “what if” reading.

Through it all, a cloud of conspiracy still hangs over the assassination 60+ years later. Books have been written and movies produced dealing with the conspiracy theories. Did Oswald act alone? Was he tied to the KGB or the CIA? How did Ruby get close enough to kill Oswald from point-blank range? Was there anyone on the grassy knoll? Why was Ruby killed in prison? What of the roles, if any, of mobsters, like Sam Giancana, Head of the Chicago mob, and Carlos Marcello, Head of the New Orleans mob, as well as the CIA, the FBI and/or Castro? Were the Warren Commission’s findings accurate or part of a cover-up?

At this time, as we mark the passage of another anniversary of JFK’s assassination, we are reminded that these issues, and others, have still not been resolved to many Americans’ satisfaction. As time passes, it seems they probably never will be.
For you readers of a certain age, what are your memories of the assassination and its aftermath? I would like to know.


Although Charles Manson was a career criminal and leader of a cult, to most people, his name is synonymous with one of the most gruesome and horrific series of murders of the 20th century.  On August 8-9, 1969, at his direction, various members of his “family” brutally murdered five innocent people for no other reason than that they had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Evidently, Manson believed he had been snubbed by a previous occupant of the house, record producer Terry Melcher.  Manson had fancied himself to be a song writer.  He had gone to the house in hopes that Melcher would sign him to a recording contract.  Melcher had rebuffed him.  Manson believed he had been “dissed.”  He  wanted revenge, so he instructed his followers (“Tex” Watson, Susan Adkins, Linda Kasabian and Patricia Krenwinkel) to go there and “totally destroy everyone in [it] as gruesome as you can.”

Unbeknownst to him, on the night in question, Melcher was no longer occupying the house.  The unfortunate occupants were Sharon Tate, a young aspiring actress who was 8 1/2 months pregnant, noted hairstylist Jay Sebring, Tate’s friend and former lover,  aspiring screenwriter Wojcieh Frykowski, Abigail Folger heiress to the Folger coffee fortune and Frykowski’s lover, and Steven Parent a student who was visiting.  Tate, along with husband Roman Polanski, owned the house.  Polanski was in Europe working on a film.

The murderers followed Manson’s plan faithfully.  All of the murders were exceedingly gruesome.  It was a wanton, senseless, brutal killing frenzy.  Tate pleaded to be allowed to live long enough to have her baby.  She even offered to become a hostage.  She was stabbed 16 times, many of them in her abdomen.  Sebring was shot.  While he was lying on the floor bleeding he was kicked repeatedly in the face, breaking his nose and eye socket, then stabbed seven times.  Folger escaped the house briefly, but she was run down and tackled, then stabbed 28 times.  Frykowski ran outside where he was caught and stabbed 51 times.  Parent, who had the misfortune of driving up as the murders were being committed, was shot four times and stabbed.   As if all that were not sufficient, the murderers wrote “pig” on the front door in Tate’s blood.  Again, they were following Manson’s instructions, which was to “leave a sign… something witchy.”

The murders shocked the world with their brutality.  The group was convicted of first degree murder.  Originally, Manson was sentenced to death but, later, due to a technicality, his sentence was commuted to life with the possibility of parole.  Thankfully, he never made parole.

Charles Milles Maddox was born on November 12, 1934 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  His childhood was troubled, to say the least.  Also, many of the details are murky and mysterious.  His mother was an unmarried 16 year-old named Kathleen Manson-Bower-Cavender.  He never knew the identity of his father for sure.  He was thought to be a ne’er do well named “Colonel” Walker Henderson (who was not a “real” colonel), or it could have been a “Colonel” Scott, who may have been a “colored” cook that his mother may have been sleeping with.   In his biography Manson identified Scott as a “drugstore cowboy, a transient laborer.”   It is quite possible that Manson invented a fictional background to fill in the blanks of his ancestry.  Like I said, murky and mysterious.

At birth, he was officially identified as “no name Maddox.”  Later, he was named Charles Milles Maddox.  Eventually,  his mother married William Eugene Manson, and Charles was renamed Charles Manson.  Not much is known about William, except he was a laborer of sorts.

Manson was in and out of trouble his entire young life.  He was incarcerated various times for committing a series of crimes, including burglaries, auto thefts and armed robberies.  Basically, he was in and out of prison continually.  In the late 1960s he established the infamous cult that eventually committed the grisly murders for which he is notorious.


Charles Manson died on November 19, 2017 of natural causes.  His name is synonymous with extreme, violent, wanton murder.   Those murders shocked us to the core.  They had no redeeming features or extenuating circumstances.  He should have been executed for them.  But for a technicality, he would have been.

Now, he is gone.  Good riddance!  He has been called “the devil.”  Maybe, now he has met his namesake.



Some of you have requested another quiz, so here it is.  Be careful what you wish for.  See if you can identify the person described in the question.

As always, I tried to make it challenging but not too hard.  Have fun.  As always, no peeking at the internet.

  1. I was a famous tv personality during the 1950s.  I hosted my own show, and it was very popular.  Earlier in my career I was a sports and entertainment reporter and a syndicated columnist.  (a) Arthur Godfrey, (b) Ed Sullivan, (c) Jackie Gleason, (d) Milton Berle.
  2. I am a well-known rapper.  My real name is Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr.  (a) Snoop Dogg, (b) Jay Z, (c) Lil Wayne, (d) LL Cool J
  3. I have won the most Academy Awards.  (a) Walt Disney, (b) Edith Head, (c) Spencer Tracy, (d) Meryl Streep
  4. I am a famous best-selling author.  My real name is Theodore Geisel.  (a) J. K. Rowling, (b) Thomasino Gomez, (c) Stephen King, (d) Dr. Seuss
  5. I am the only one in this group that was NOT Canadian-born.  (a) William Shatner, (b) Rachel McAdams, (c) Cate Blanchett, (d) Ryan Gosling
  6. I was a famous actor.  I was in many Westerns.  My real name was Marion Mitchell Morrison.  (a) Randolph Scott, (b) John Wayne, (c) Ronald Reagan, (d) James Arness
  7. I won the 2017 Emmy for best actress in a drama series.  (a) Viola Davis, (b) Robin Wright, (c) Elizabeth Moss, (d) Claire Fog
  8. I was a 15th century explorer/cartographer.  America was named after me.  (a) Columbus, (b) de Gama, (c) Magellan, (d) Vespucci
  9. I have won the most Oscars for Best Actor.  (a) Spencer Tracy, (b) Humphrey Bogart, (c) Jack Nicholson, (d) Daniel Day Lewis
  10. I have won the most Oscars for Best Actress. (a) Katherine Hepburn, (b) Meryl Streep, (c) Audrey Hepburn, (d) Bette Davis
  11. I was the only US President to serve two non-consecutive terms.  (a) Benjamin Harrison, (b) James K. Polk, (c) Grover Cleveland, (d) Rutherford B. Hayes
  12. I was the longest-serving Prime Minister of Canada. (a) MacKenzie King, (b) Pierre Trudeau, (c) John MacDonald, (d) Lester Pearson
  13. I hosted a kiddie tv show for 30 years.  My real name was Bob Keeshan.  Can you name my show?  (a) Howdy Doody, (b) Mr. Rogers, (c) Captain Kangaroo, (d) Johnny Jellybean
  14. I was the only person to serve as both President and Vice President of the US without having been elected to either office.  (a) Millard Fillmore, (b) James Garfield, (c) Gerald Ford, (d) Henry Wallace
  15. I served the shortest term of any US President.  (a) John Tyler, (b) Harry Truman, (c)William Henry Harrison, (d) Franklyn Pierce

ANSWERS: 1. (b),  2. (a),  3. (a)(22),  4. (d),  5  (c),  6. (b),  7. (c),  8. (d) (Amerigo Vespucci), 9. (d)(3)  10. (a) (4), 11. (c), 12. (a)(21 years),  13. (c),  14. (c),  15. (c)

Well, there you have it.  Let me know how you did.


Haym Salomon was not a soldier. He never fought in a battle.  Yet, his contributions to the success of the American Revolution were considerable, some would say, pivotal.  In my opinion, he was an unsung hero of the American Revolution, and, were it not for him, the colonies would likely never have won their freedom from England.  What did he do to earn such high praise?  Read on for the answer.

Chaim Salomon was born in Leszno, Poland in 1740 to a family of Sephardic Jews.  His ancestors had emigrated from Spain and Portugal at the end of the 15th century when the Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, (yes, the same Ferdinand and Isabella who bankrolled Christopher Columbus’ voyages to the New World), had ordered the mass expulsion of Spanish Jews (or, at least, the ones who were not tortured in the Inquisition).

In his youth Salomon travelled extensively throughout Europe.  Fortuitously, he developed an affinity for finance and learned to speak several languages fluently, including Hebrew and German.

In 1775 Salomon emigrated to New York where he established himself as a prominent financial broker servicing merchants who were trading internationally.  Along the way, he anglicized his first name to “Haym.”  Sympathizing with the Patriots he joined the NY branch of the Sons of Liberty.  The British arrested him for spying in September 1776, and he spent 18 months on a British prison ship.  While imprisoned, he did not languish.  He organized the escape of several other prisoners, and being fluent in German, he worked hard to convince some of the Hessian mercenaries on the ship to abandon their support of the British.  Eventually, he was pardoned, but in 1778 he was arrested again.  This time, he was sentenced to death, but he escaped and made his way to Philadelphia, which was a Patriot hotbed.

Salomon re-established his financial brokerage business in Philadelphia with even greater success.  He became the agent to the French consul and the paymaster for French troops in North America.  In addition, in 1781 he began working with Robert Morris, who was the Superintendent for Finance for the Thirteen Colonies, to raise funds and establish lines of credit for the Continental Army.

Salomon and Morris made a formidable team for the War effort.  The Continental Army was perennially short of supplies and funds.  Necessities, such as food, medicine and uniforms, were continually in very short supply.  For example, we are all familiar with the story of the devastating winter General Washington’s troops spent at Valley Forge in 1777-78.  Soldiers were not being paid.  The Continental Congress was tapped out.  Many soldiers had simply quit when their enlistment periods ended and returned home.  Those that remained were threatening mutiny.  By late 1781 the situation had become so dire that Washington was not sure he could outfit the Army for the decisive Battle of Yorktown.

As the story goes, when Morris told Washington that there was no more money and the credit lines were exhausted Washington simply told him to “send for Haym Salomon.”   Salomon had become the  “go-to” guy for financing.  Between 1781 and 1784 he raised over $650,000 (almost $17 million in current dollars) through sales of bills of exchange and personal loans, most of which were never repaid.   (Note: a bill of exchange is akin to a promissory note or a modern-day check.  It was the primary vehicle by which merchants conducted business for credit.)   According to Morris’ diary he called upon Salomon for assistance some 75 times during this period.

Additionally, Salomon actually paid the salaries of many army officers and government officials out of his own funds.  Moreover, he personally supported several members of the Continental Congress, such as James Madison and James Wilson, who were staying in Philadelphia.  Truly, astounding.  Again, these payments and loans were never repaid.

With respect to the Battle of Yorktown, once again, Salomon came through.  As we know, the Continental Army, with the assistance of the French navy, trapped the British army on the Yorktown peninsula forcing its surrender and ending the war.  Against all odds, the colonies had won their freedom.


In addition to the foregoing Salomon is reputed to have granted bequests to those he considered to be “unsung” heroes of the Revolution – men who had given their time and fortune to the cause.   For example, Dr. Bodo Otto, a senior surgeon of the Continental Army, had given up his practice to join up at the ripe old age of 65.  He had served for the entire war.  Among other things, he had used his own funds to establish and maintain a hospital at Valley Forge.  After the war, through Salomon’s largesse, Otto was able to rebuild his medical practice.

Salomon’s story ended very badly and sadly.  He died prematurely and penniless at the young age of 44 of tuberculosis.   As I said, his loans were never repaid.

Belatedly, Salomon has received some recognition.

  1. In 1939 Warner Brothers released a movie about his exploits entitled The Sons of Liberty, starring Claude Raines as Salomon.
  2. In 1941 the renowned author, Howard Fast, published a book about his life entitled Haym Salomon, Son of Liberty.
  3. Also in 1941 a statue depicting Washington, Morris and Salomon was erected in Chicago.   Another one was erected in Los Angeles in 1946.
  4. During WWII a ship, the SS Haym Salomon, was commissioned in his honor.
  5. In 1975 the US Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp in his honor.

Fine and well, but the more one learns about Salomon the more one realizes that his contributions can never be repaid adequately.


Saturday, November 11, we will celebrate Veterans Day.  This year, because the holiday falls on a Saturday, many states will also hold celebrations on Friday, November 10.   Also, federal courts, some schools, and non-essential federal offices will be closed on Friday.  Most banks will be open on Friday and closed on Saturday.  There will be normal mail delivery on Friday, but not on Saturday.  As always, the financial markets will be open .

Incidentally, some of you may have noted that I spelled the holiday without an apostrophe.  My research has indicated that the official spelling is apostrophe-less, as the holiday is intended to be about honoring veterans.  Using the possessive apostrophe would indicate that the day belongs to veterans, which is not the case.

To many people, VD is merely a day off from work or a chance to spend time with family or friends. They do not stop to reflect on the significance of the holiday, its history, and the sacrifices endured by millions of people to make it all possible. Like so many things, we tend to take it for granted.

VD originated at the conclusion of WWI, which was the most devastating war up to that time. WWI lasted from 1914 to 1918. In those pre-WWII days, it was called “The Great War.” There were 37.5 million total casualties on both sides, including 8.5 million people killed. The countries with the largest number of casualties were Germany, Russia and France. The US’s casualties were relatively light, 116,000 killed and 323,000 total casualties, because it joined the war late (1917).

Most people know that the immediate cause of the war was the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, by a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip. However, every war has underlying causes as well.  The underlying causes of WWI had been building for many years. They were:

1. The proliferation of mutual defense treaties. All of the major European powers, Great Britain, France, Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary were bound by interlocking treaties. This insured that if one of these countries were to go to war all the others would be drawn in as well.

2. Imperialism. This was nothing new. Imperialism had been an issue since the 16th century. In the early 1900s it had risen to a new level. The European powers were all vying for pieces of Africa and Asia, primarily for their raw materials.

3. Militarism. The militaries in each of these countries were aggressive, bold and influential.

4. Nationalism. Various ethnic groups, notably the Slavs in Austria, wanted independence from the imperialist countries that controlled them.

Against this background, it is easy to see how a world war could break out. All that was needed was a spark, and the abovementioned assassination provided it. The principal antagonists were Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire on one side and Great Britain, France, Russia and the US on the other, although the Russians were forced to withdraw in 1917 with the advent of the Russian Revolution.

After four years of fighting, from 1914 to 1918, the combatants were finally able to agree on an armistice. It took effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918. Eventually, it was ratified by the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed June 25, 1919 at the Palace of Versailles. November 11 became known as Armistice Day. In 1919 President Woodrow Wilson made it official by proclamation.  It became an official holiday in 1938.  Armistice Day was officially changed to VD in 1954.

The “Father of Veterans Day” is a WWII veteran named Raymond Weeks. It was his idea to expand Armistice Day to include all veterans, not just those of WWI, and he became the driving force to effect this change. He petitioned General Dwight Eisenhower, and he led a national celebration every year from 1947 until his death in 1985. President Reagan honored him with the Presidential Citizenship Medal in 1982 at which time he was recognized officially as “The Father of VD.”

VD should not be confused with Memorial Day. VD celebrates the service of ALL military veterans living and dead (even non-combatants), while Memorial Day celebrates only those who died in the service of their country.

VD is celebrated in many countries. Celebrations vary. In Canada the holiday is called Remembrance Day. In Great Britain the holiday is known as Remembrance Sunday, and it is celebrated on the second Sunday of November. In both countries as well as in many European countries, the occasion is marked by a moment of silence at 11:00 am. Also, in both Canada and Great Britain some people wear poppies in their lapels as a tribute. Red poppies became a symbol of WWI after they were featured in the famous poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae.  If you are unfamiliar with the poem I urge you to google it and read it.  I am not normally a fan of poetry, but I found it very moving.

In the US we enjoy parades and other celebrations around the country. Many restaurants and other businesses offer veterans free meals or discounts on various goods and services. Additionally, there is a special ceremony in Washington, DC which features the laying of a wreath at the “Tomb of the Unknowns” at Arlington National Cemetery.


So, as you enjoy the day, take a few minutes to recognize and show respect for the veterans who sacrificed so much in order that the rest of us could enjoy the freedoms that we sometimes take for granted.  Many of us do not realize how brutal and vicious war actually is, particularly when it comes down to hand-to-hand combat where it’s you vs. the other guy, and it’s literally kill or be killed.  So, if you encounter a veteran, thank him or her for their service. It would mean a great deal to him or her to be so recognized.

Also, be cognizant of the inadequate medical services we provide our veterans, especially the significant delays in receiving medical care and other benefits. It is truly a national scandal that has received scant attention in the mainstream media and one that needs to be rectified asap.  The good news is that President Trump has been following  through on his campaign promise to rectify the situation, but much more work needs to be done.

Finally, some advice to the “anthem-kneelers.”  Find some other way to bring attention to your cause.  Attacking/disrespecting popular institutions , such as the flag, the anthem and veterans is doing you, and your cause, more harm than good.


It is significant to note that the proposed “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” is not actually a “tax cut,” as has been widely and erroneously reported.  The term “tax cut” implies that everyone will benefit from a tax reduction.  Even President Trump has stated that the proposed tax bill is designed to be “revenue neutral.”  In point of fact, in accordance with the 1985 Byrd Rule, in order for the bill to be approved by the Senate by a simple majority, it must project to raise the deficit by no more than $1.5 trillion over the next ten years.  Otherwise, 6o votes would be needed to pass the Senate, and no one thinks that will happen.

Thus, any tax bill that is passed will have winners and losers.  Obviously, everyone wants to be a winner, and no one wants to be a loser.  The bill has something for everyone – both to like and to hate.  Given the difficulty of getting Congress to agree on anything, it faces an extreme uphill battle.

The essential elements of the bill are delineated below.  Depending on your economic situation, family structure, and geographic location you will like some and hate others.


  1. The number of tax brackets will be reduced from seven to four.  The lowest bracket will be increased from 10% to 12%.
  2. The standard deduction will be increased.  For example, for a married couple filing jointly it will jump from $12,700 to $24,000.  Thus, such a family unit would not pay any taxes on the first $24,000 of income.  Sounds great, but the personal exemptions of $4,050 per person would be eliminated, which would mitigate, or in large families offset, this benefit.  Lower income families with many children and/or elderly or blind members could even face an increased tax burden.
  3. The current rules regarding 401Ks and IRAs would not be changed.
  4. The child care credit ceiling would be increased from $1,000 to $6,000, and an additional $300 credit would be added for non-child care, such as for parents.
  5. The alternative minimum tax would be repealed.  In my opinion, this provision is the “king of ‘unintended consequences.’ ”  When it was enacted in the 1960s it was intended to apply only to the very rich who had employed a variety of tools to avoid taxes.  However, it was not indexed to inflation.  So, over the years it has ensnared many middle income taxpayers as well.
  6. Mortgage interest will be reduced to $500,000 for new homes.
  7. The deduction for property taxes would be limited to $10,000.
  8. The deduction for state and local taxes would be eliminated.  These last two may doom the bill since no Congressman from NY, California, or any other highly taxed state could afford to vote for them, politically.  That, folks, is a lot of “nay” votes.
  9. Repeals the estate tax.  Although this action will help many small business owners and farmers, it has been widely perceived as a major benefit for the wealthy, and it is one of the more controversial provisions of the bill.


  1. Reduces the rate on small and family-owned business profits (sole proprietorships, partnerships and subchapter S corporations, from a high of 39.5% to 25%.
  2. Provides for repatriation of profits being maintained overseas at a rate of 20%.


In my opinion, the bill is doomed to failure in its present form for the following reasons:

  1. Although tax cuts are always popular, it is not a tax cut per se.
  2. It is perceived, by many, as too beneficial to the rich.
  3. Its primary claim, that it will spur economic growth over the next several years, is disputed, open to interpretation, and is more than offset by the deficiencies stated above.
  4. It contains three very toxic provisions – elimination of state and local taxes and estate taxes and reduction of the mortgage interest deduction.
  5. Few, if any Dems will vote for it, and none from the populous, highly-taxed states, such as NY, NJ, CA, and MA.
  6. In order to pass, the bill needs the support of every Republican.  Unfortunately, some conservative GOP Congressmen, such as Senator Bob Corker, have already stated they adamantly oppose it because they feel it will add to the deficit.
  7. Perhaps, most telling, is that neither President Trump nor his key legislative advisors and leaders, such as Messrs. Pence, Ryan and McConnell, have demonstrated an ability to finesse legislation through a contentious and antagonistic Congress.  Therefore, the chances of them being successful with this bill are slim.

Despite the foregoing, I believe that the bill is salvageable, but it will take a lot of work.  I am in favor of tax reform, but not this bill in its present form.

This will be an excellent opportunity for President Trump to show off his vaunted  negotiating skills.  His presidency needs a legislative win badly.  Lets see if he can pull it off.


Exactly what are “opioids?  How are they used and misused?  Do we have an “opioid crisis in the US as many have alleged?  If so, what do we do about it?  Good questions.  Read on for the answers.

Opioids are a rather diverse group of drugs, commonly prescribed to alleviate pain.  They include familiar names, such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin and Fentanyl.  When taken as prescribed by a physician they can be very beneficial.  The problem comes when they are abused, which, unfortunately, is quite common.  Many people get “hooked” on them and use them as a “recreational “drug.  Taken to excess they, quite simply, can kill you.  Furthermore, in some cases they have served as a “gateway” to other “hard” drugs, such as heroin.

According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration the country is in the midst of an opioid crisis that has reached “epidemic levels.”  Moreover, Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control, has declared that “America is awash in opioids; urgent action is critical.”  President Trump has characterized the opioid crisis as a “national emergency” and has appointed a “drug czar” to address it.

Some disturbing facts, with respect to opioids:

  1. According to the USDA, almost 50% of opioid overdoses are now attributable to prescription opioids.  To put this in perspective, the total deaths from opioids exceeds the total deaths from both car accidents and guns.
  2. Presently, drug overdose is the leading cause of death in adults under the age of 50, and 2/3 of those deaths are attributable to opioids.
  3. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse over 90 Americans die of an opioid overdose EVERY DAY.  Roll that statistic around in your head for a minute.  Ninety people, day after day after day.
  4. The CDC has estimated the total “economic burden,” including factors such as healthcare, addiction treatment, lost productivity and criminal justice involvement, at some $79 billion annually.  This does not include non-measurable factors, such as the emotional stress on families that include a member suffering from addiction.
  5. The National Institute of Health is the country’s pre-eminent medical research agency with respect to the opioid crisis.  It is charged with researching ways to prevent, treat and manage opioid use and misuse.  Some of its more disturbing findings:

a.  Some 25% of persons who take prescribed opioids “misuse” them, i.e. take too much, which leads to addiction or other problems.

b.  Approximately 5% of the above persons “graduate” to heroin.

c.  About 80% of heroin users started with opioids.

d.  Users’ injection of these drugs has contributed to the proliferation of infectious diseases, such as HIV and Hepatitis C.

According to Wikipedia:

  1. Addiction and overdose victims are mostly white and working class.
  2. Geographically, persons living in rural areas have been hit the hardest.
  3. Teenagers account for roughly 1/3 of all new abusers of prescription drugs.  Such abuse exceeds that for all illicit drugs, such as cocaine, meth, and heroin.

So, how did we get here?   According to the Surgeon General it began in the 1990s with physicians’ excessive prescribing of these drugs.  According to Wikipedia between 1991 and 2011 prescriptions for opioids grew from 76 million to 219 million per year.  These drugs have proved to be very effective at enabling us to manage pain.  Furthermore, drug companies marketed them aggressively, and those suffering from chronic pain (some 100 million of us) saw them as a panacea.   Some physicians viewed them as an easy solution to their patients’ medical issues, and prescribed them when other treatments might have sufficed.  No one seemed to realize and appreciate their potency and ability to foster dependence.

Many patients acquired a tolerance and a dependency.  Some managed to feed their needs through doubling up on prescriptions from multiple providers, such as multiple doctors, foreign sources or drug “pushers.”  Some turned to heroin, which is cheaper, easier to obtain, and generally more powerful, particularly when “spiked with fentanyl, a devastating drug that is 100 times more powerful than morphine and 50 times more powerful than heroin.  In addition, the person using it often does not realize that it is present.  Fentanyl has caused an extreme escalation of this crisis.  The CDC reports that death rates from fentanyl and other “synthetics” increased 72% from 2014 to 2015, the last year for which such statistics are available.  There is no reason to believe that that trend has not continued.


So what are the solutions?  Are there any, or are we just doomed to become a nation of unproductive, drug-abusing zombies?

Consider the following:

  1. In 2010 the Federal Government began cracking down on physicians and pharmacists who were over-prescribing opioids.  (In some cases, this action may have driven some users to heroin and other illicit drugs.)  I already mentioned President Trump’s appointment of a drug czar.
  2. In 2016 the CDC published its “Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.”
  3. Most every state now has its own prescription drug monitoring programs.
  4. The media has contributed to publicizing the opioid epidemic through tv special news reports designed to educate people as to the consequences of overuse of these drugs.
  5. Today, physicians are generally very cognizant of the danger of these drugs and the consequences of over-prescribing.   For example, my pain management doctor has very stringent procedures for dispensing these drugs.  Also, many providers have hired security guards to deal with potential patient violence.  Finally, according to one of my personal physicians, many doctors simply will not prescribe any opioids for any purpose for fear of being accused of overprescribing.

All of the foregoing actions are fine as far as they go.  However, in a free society the government and other external sources can only do so much.

Recognizing that there is a problem is the first step towards solving it.  For the most part, we have done this.  Ultimately, I believe it will be the personal responsibility of each individual to take care of his own body.